The Alexander Family

The Alexander Family

     by Waldo Historia

     February 18, 2008

    (orig. publishing date)

The Alexander family of Macedonia was made up of very diverse personalities.  See, diversity isn’t such a new thing.  We all know the exploits of Alexander the Great.  How he conquered the known world of his time while still in his twenties; and other boring stuff like that.  Did you know some of the other members of his family tree?  I didn’t think so.

There’s Alexander the Puny.  He accomplished absolutely nothing during his lifetime.  He’s not even mentioned by historians. If I hadn’t just told you about him, you would never had known that he existed.

A more down-to-earth and interesting story concerns a distant relative of Alex the Great.  He was a third cousin …. or, maybe a fourth cousin.  They were born only a few days apart. Historians scorned his extraordinary accomplishments.  They gave him the nickname of Alexander the Mediocre.  This story is about him. 

Alex the Great was constantly nagged by both sides of his family to hire on Alex the Med, and find some useful duties he could perform to bolster his flagging self-esteem.  (He was once a flagman on road construction for a short time.)  The “Big A” finally relented and hired  his woeful cousin to do road maintenance. He was given several duties during the campaigns.  His primary job was to keep the mountain trails from becoming too slippery for travel, by shoveling the elephant dung over the cliffs.  That’s not the main reason for his history-making achievements; but a real close second.

Alexander the Great made many treks through mountains, deserts, swamps, and occasionally, a real nice town.  They would be roadies for several months to a year or more, at a time.  Since portable timepieces hadn’t been invented yet, the only way of telling the length of their journey was by counting the seasons.  Alex the Great was a perfectionist.  He thought, “There must be a means of  more accurate measurements of time-lapse”. He bestowed that responsibility onto his wretched cousin, Alexander the Mediocre.

So, the Med analyzed the options.  Toting a calendar would be a nuisance.  Even a pocket one was a bother.  With spearholes and bloodstains, they were hard to read after a couple of battles.  If dropped to the ground, mud and elephant footprints made them impossible to read by the trip’s end.  No, there had to be a better and more reliable way to tell time.

 In their travels, the Med had observed with acute accuracy, (at least it wasn’t ugly), the relationship between the time of the journey, and the condition of the soldiers’ clothing. By noting the degree of their weathered garbs, he deduced the time of absence to within several weeks.

He perfected his observation technique.  Using different types of material, he had the men wrap strips of cloth around their wrists.  By observing their discoloration and weathered state, he was able to decipher the time on the road to within days.

 This became the most popular way of telling time for many centuries, until the invention of clocks, watches and egg-timers.  This method isn’t used much anymore, except in the most primitive places on earth.  Like Cleveland.  But where it is, it is still affectionately known as Alexander’s ragtime band.

 © 2008  by  James M. Britvich    All Rights Reserved.


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